Inspiration Thursday - Howard Zahniser

"I believe that at least in the present phase of our civilization we have a profound, a fundamental need for areas of wilderness - a need that is not only recreational and spiritual but also educational and scientific, and withal essential to a true understanding of ourselves, our culture, our own natures, and our place in all nature.

This need is for areas of the earth within which we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment - areas of wild nature in which we sense ourselves to be, what in fact I believe we are, dependent members of an interdependent community of living creatures that together derive their existence from the Sun."
         -Howard Zahniser
Happy (early) Birthday to Wilderness Act author Howard Zahniser (Feb. 25, 1906-May 5, 1964).
Howard was a tireless visionary, conservationist, journalist, and author of the original text of the U.S. Wilderness Act (which ultimately took 66 drafts).  The Wilderness Act established the national wilderness preservation system (which today protects over 109 million acres) to ensure these rugged places stay wild for future generations.
I firmly believe that if we'd not set up this system we wouldn't have large expanses of untrammeled lands today.  It seems to me that "in the present phase of our civilization" we let little stands in the way of so-called progress.  Development continues to encroach, but the Wilderness Act safeguards some of the most pristine and untouched places from being chopped up for roads, mines, or shopping malls.
Private landowners who utilize and manage their land with an eye toward conservation, wildlife management, and maintaining wild characteristics get tremendous respect from me.  Unfortunately I've seen what happens when a hold-out passes on and the next generation sees their relationship with the land a little differently.  It comforts me to know there are these glorious cathedrals of nature safeguarded by the law, too.
Our vigilance is still required though.  There are certainly folks at local, state, and national levels who think these public lands would be better put to use for resource extraction or motorized use.  This hurts my heart.  We have enough roads in this world.  We do not have enough solitude and sanctuary.  We will never have enough coal or oil and it seems unconscionable to wreck these scenic and ecologically viable locales to get a little bit more.
I volunteer for the Montana Wilderness Association and highly recommend getting involved with groups like that, dedicated to keeping public lands in public hands--and committed to the preservation of Howard's legacy.   I've met so many passionate, intelligent, thoughtful people through my involvement with this and similar organizations--people who inspire me to participate, to stand up for what I hold dear, to shape my own page of history.
Sometimes this is hard.
Sometimes it is complex, disheartening, convoluted, and frustrating as all get out.   (And I want to retreat or call people mean names and quit.)  But, in the end, I know it is worth it.  Doing good/right frequently fails to follow the path of least resistance.  I feel compelled to do my small part carrying the torch--to ensure the work of all those before me doesn't fade quietly away.
Happy 112th birthday to Howard this weekend!


  1. Happy birthday Howard. Totally agree with your sentiments. Preservation is an absolute

    1. Totally! Thanks, Bean, and have a swell day.

  2. I never heard of this man, but I know Teddy Roosevelt had much to do with preserving spaces - national parkland? I forget.

    1. Yup, Teddy was an outspoken conservationist. He loved hunting and camping and wanted to make sure he could keep doing both. It was a much needed influence in his era. There are loads of powerhouse characters that built the house of wild and natural preserves through their words and actions. Thank heavens!

  3. ...such beauty...

    ~Have a lovely day!

    1. Right?!? This world is astounding in beauty.


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